Normal service will be resumed shortly

by Henry Farrell on July 11, 2004

There appears to be some problem with our service – new comments are being registered – but are not appearing on the site. We’re trying to figure out what the problem is …

Update: Things seem to be working again.

Third Parties as Infantilism

by Henry Farrell on July 11, 2004

“Brad DeLong”: tells us that Barbara Ehrenreich’s version of left-wing politics are an ‘infantile disorder.’ In support of this claim, he quotes _in extenso_ from a _Nation_ piece that she wrote in 2000, advocating support for Ralph Nader rather than Al Gore. Brad is being both condescending and obtuse – I have difficulty in seeing any evidence whatsover of infantilism in the piece that he quotes. Ehrenreich has two points to make. First – that if you’re really committed to major reform of the US political system, voting for the Democrats isn’t going to do it. The only way to create a real alternative is to build an alternative social movement – and alternative party – on the ground, which necessarily is going to involve conflict with the institutional interests of the Democratic party. Second – even if we are stuck in a two party system for the foreseeable future, the way for leftists to get their voice heard by the Democrats isn’t to roll over and play nice – it’s to credibly threaten to vote for somebody else unless the Democrats start pushing for the things that you care about.

There are some very good counter-arguments against voting for Nader, and they’re even better in this election than the last one. Because of basic personality flaws, he’s an improbable candidate for real social change (although I should say that I know and like some of the people who work for him). He’d be a bad President. This time around, he doesn’t have the support of the Greens, or much in the way of supporting organizations (apart from the Republicans). Thus, voting for him wouldn’t do anything to help build a viable alternative political movement. Finally, the alternative to a Kerry Presidency is demonstrably too horrible to be contemplated. Still, Ehrenreich is posing a very serious question that Brad doesn’t start to answer. If you believe (as Ehrenreich does, and as I do) that the current two party system in the US is systematically flawed, and produces deeply inequitable results, then why should you vote, year in, year out, for candidates who have no intention of changing things? The ‘lesser of two evils’ argument may cut it this year; it isn’t going to cut it forever.

Update: for a different defence of Ehrenreich, see “Kevin Drum”:

Update2: It seems that Brad wasn’t being quite as condescending as I thought – his ‘infantile disorder’ jibe is a “nod to Lenin”: I still reckon that he doesn’t establish much of a case that Ehrenreich is in fact being infantile.

Wilco or Cat Power

by John Holbo on July 11, 2004

Wilco or Cat Power. Huh?

I’m happy to provide links to enable Kevin Drum to arrive at an informed decision as to which of these truly fine music offerings is preferable . Wilco has a new album out, “A ghost is born”. I don’t own it yet, but the six tracks you can listen to for free are fantastic. Zoë says “Hell is Chrome” ‘sounds like it’s about a vewy young angel.’ Newborn ghost, indeed! She thought it was too sad, but danced round and round to the piano on “Hummingbird”. I’m listening to “Muzzle of Bees” right now. Beautiful stuff.

Cat Power has a very infectious – in a good way – new album, “You Are Free”. Go to the site and hear the hypnotically simple strains of “I Don’t Blame You”. Then click through to ‘media’ and watch the video for “He War”. It’s a great pop tune with lyrics that make no sense and a nice low-budget story video without a story, set in California. I like those so long as they can’t afford clowns. Just people walking and trees and water, mostly. Like looking at someone’s photo album and wondering what’s going on in all the pictures without really caring. For all I know it’s in heavy rotation on MTV and VH1 and you’re all sick to death of it. If so, I apologize. I’m in Singapore and am not made aware of such things when they happen.

There are two other videos from older albums, but one wouldn’t load and I can’t recommend the other.

Well, which is it going to be, Kevin?